Vaudeville in the Ozarks—The Toby Show

The public is invited to “Vaudeville in the Ozarks” a free presentation on the origins of the Toby Show in this area and its recent revival at Shepherd of the Hills. Jae McFerron, a cast member of the original Toby Show and director of the current production, will be at the Branson Centennial Museum on Tuesday, October 15, from 12:30–1:30 PM to share the tale.

Shad Heller in costume holding a flower
Shad Heller

“Shad and Mollie Heller’s Original Toby Show was a popular attraction in Branson from the late 1960s through the mid 80s,” said Jean Babcock, Branson Centennial Museum co-curator with her husband Jim.  “Our local show and others like it were born from traveling repertoire theater popular in America beginning in the 1850’s, when tent show tours would move by wagon and riverboat throughout the country.”

Beginning as a traveling, vaudeville-style show, The Toby Show is a story of good versus evil, with the show’s emcee and main character, Toby, representing a cowboy, lumberjack, or farmer depending on the region. The presentation is a collection of music and comedic skits tied together with a thin plot.

Mollie Heller wearing a feathered hat and smiling mischievously at the camera.
Mollie Heller

Lloyd “Shad” Heller was the first blacksmith at Silver Dollar City and co-wrote the original script for the outdoor drama at Shepherd of the Hills. Shad and his wife Mollie put together their own Toby Show for the community of Branson in 1969 that was presented until the late 80’s. Today, the show’s revival performs as dinner theater on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the Shepherd of the Hills indoor venue, now through October 19.

The Tuesday Talk series is presented free-of-charge by the Branson Centennial Museum and White River Valley Historical Society. Throughout 2019, various topics of local and historical interest will be presented by knowledgeable speakers every month on the third Tuesday from 12:30 until 1:30 PM. The Museum is located in historic Downtown Branson at 120 South Commercial Street.

About White River Valley Historical Society

The WRVHS exists to preserve, protect, and promote the cultural history of Taney County, Missouri, and the upper White River Valley region through public programs and educational events.

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